A transitional fossil is any fossilized remains of a life form that exhibits traits common to both an ancestral group and its derived descendant group. This is important where the descendant group is differentiated by gross anatomy and mode of living from the ancestral group; these fossils serve as a reminder that taxonomic divisions are human constructs that have been imposed in hindsight on a continuum of variation. Because of the incompleteness of the fossil record, there is no way to know how close a transitional fossil is to the point of divergence. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that transitional fossils are direct ancestors of more recent groups, though they are used as models for such ancestors. In 1859, when Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species was first published, the fossil record was poorly known. Darwin described the perceived lack of transitional fossils as, "... the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory," but explained it by relating it to the extreme imperfection of the geological record.
He noted the limited collections available at that time, but described the available information as showing patterns that followed from his theory of descent with modification through natural selection. Indeed, Archaeopteryx was discovered just two years in 1861, represents a classic transitional form between earlier, non-avian dinosaurs and birds. Many more transitional fossils have been discovered since and there is now abundant evidence of how all classes of vertebrates are related, including many transitional fossils. Specific examples of class-level transitions are: tetrapods and fish and dinosaurs, mammals and "mammal-like reptiles"; the term "missing link" has been used extensively in popular writings on human evolution to refer to a perceived gap in the hominid evolutionary record. It is most used to refer to any new transitional fossil finds. Scientists, however, do not use the term. In evolutionary taxonomy, the prevailing form of taxonomy during much of the 20th century and still used in non-specialist textbooks, taxa based on morphological similarity are drawn as "bubbles" or "spindles" branching off from each other, forming evolutionary trees.
Transitional forms are seen as falling between the various groups in terms of anatomy, having a mixture of characteristics from inside and outside the newly branched clade. With the establishment of cladistics in the 1990s, relationships came to be expressed in cladograms that illustrate the branching of the evolutionary lineages in stick-like figures; the different so-called "natural" or "monophyletic" groups form nested units, only these are given phylogenetic names. While in traditional classification tetrapods and fish are seen as two different groups, phylogenetically tetrapods are considered a branch of fish. Thus, with cladistics there is no longer a transition between established groups, the term "transitional fossils" is a misnomer. Differentiation occurs within groups, represented as branches in the cladogram. In a cladistic context, transitional organisms can be seen as representing early examples of a branch, where not all of the traits typical of the known descendants on that branch have yet evolved.
Such early representatives of a group are termed "basal taxa" or "sister taxa," depending on whether the fossil organism belongs to the daughter clade or not. A source of confusion is the notion that a transitional form between two different taxonomic groups must be a direct ancestor of one or both groups; the difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that one of the goals of evolutionary taxonomy is to identify taxa that were ancestors of other taxa. However, it is impossible to be sure that any form represented in the fossil record is a direct ancestor of any other. In fact, because evolution is a branching process that produces a complex bush pattern of related species rather than a linear process producing a ladder-like progression, because of the incompleteness of the fossil record, it is unlikely that any particular form represented in the fossil record is a direct ancestor of any other. Cladistics deemphasizes the concept of one taxonomic group being an ancestor of another, instead emphasizes the identification of sister taxa that share a more recent common ancestor with one another than they do with other groups.
There are a few exceptional cases, such as some marine plankton microfossils, where the fossil record is complete enough to suggest with confidence that certain fossils represent a population, ancestral to a population of a different species. But, in general, transitional fossils are considered to have features that illustrate the transitional anatomical features of actual common ancestors of different taxa, rather than to be actual ancestors. Archaeopteryx is a genus of theropod dinosaur related to the birds. Since the late 19th century, it has been accepted by palaeontologists, celebrated in lay reference works, as being the oldest known bird, though a study in 2011 has cast doubt on this assessment, suggesting instead that it is a non-avialan dinosaur related to the origin of birds, it lived in what is now southern Germany in the Late Jurassic period around 150 million years ago, when Europe was an archipelago in a shallow warm tropical sea, much closer to the equator than it is now. Similar in shape to a European magpie, with the largest individuals attaining the size of a raven, Archaeopteryx could grow to about 0.5 metres in length.
Despite its small size, broad wings, inferred ability to fly or glide, Archaeopteryx has more in common with other small Mesozoic dinosaurs than it does with modern birds. In particular, it sh
Evolution is change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. These characteristics are the expressions of genes that are passed on from parent to offspring during reproduction. Different characteristics tend to exist within any given population as a result of mutation, genetic recombination and other sources of genetic variation. Evolution occurs when evolutionary processes such as natural selection and genetic drift act on this variation, resulting in certain characteristics becoming more common or rare within a population, it is this process of evolution that has given rise to biodiversity at every level of biological organisation, including the levels of species, individual organisms and molecules. The scientific theory of evolution by natural selection was proposed by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in the mid-19th century and was set out in detail in Darwin's book On the Origin of Species. Evolution by natural selection was first demonstrated by the observation that more offspring are produced than can survive.
This is followed by three observable facts about living organisms: 1) traits vary among individuals with respect to their morphology and behaviour, 2) different traits confer different rates of survival and reproduction and 3) traits can be passed from generation to generation. Thus, in successive generations members of a population are more to be replaced by the progenies of parents with favourable characteristics that have enabled them to survive and reproduce in their respective environments. In the early 20th century, other competing ideas of evolution such as mutationism and orthogenesis were refuted as the modern synthesis reconciled Darwinian evolution with classical genetics, which established adaptive evolution as being caused by natural selection acting on Mendelian genetic variation. All life on Earth shares a last universal common ancestor that lived 3.5–3.8 billion years ago. The fossil record includes a progression from early biogenic graphite, to microbial mat fossils, to fossilised multicellular organisms.
Existing patterns of biodiversity have been shaped by repeated formations of new species, changes within species and loss of species throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Morphological and biochemical traits are more similar among species that share a more recent common ancestor, can be used to reconstruct phylogenetic trees. Evolutionary biologists have continued to study various aspects of evolution by forming and testing hypotheses as well as constructing theories based on evidence from the field or laboratory and on data generated by the methods of mathematical and theoretical biology, their discoveries have influenced not just the development of biology but numerous other scientific and industrial fields, including agriculture and computer science. The proposal that one type of organism could descend from another type goes back to some of the first pre-Socratic Greek philosophers, such as Anaximander and Empedocles; such proposals survived into Roman times. The poet and philosopher Lucretius followed Empedocles in his masterwork De rerum natura.
In contrast to these materialistic views, Aristotelianism considered all natural things as actualisations of fixed natural possibilities, known as forms. This was part of a medieval teleological understanding of nature in which all things have an intended role to play in a divine cosmic order. Variations of this idea became the standard understanding of the Middle Ages and were integrated into Christian learning, but Aristotle did not demand that real types of organisms always correspond one-for-one with exact metaphysical forms and gave examples of how new types of living things could come to be. In the 17th century, the new method of modern science rejected the Aristotelian approach, it sought explanations of natural phenomena in terms of physical laws that were the same for all visible things and that did not require the existence of any fixed natural categories or divine cosmic order. However, this new approach was slow to take root in the biological sciences, the last bastion of the concept of fixed natural types.
John Ray applied one of the more general terms for fixed natural types, "species," to plant and animal types, but he identified each type of living thing as a species and proposed that each species could be defined by the features that perpetuated themselves generation after generation. The biological classification introduced by Carl Linnaeus in 1735 explicitly recognised the hierarchical nature of species relationships, but still viewed species as fixed according to a divine plan. Other naturalists of this time speculated on the evolutionary change of species over time according to natural laws. In 1751, Pierre Louis Maupertuis wrote of natural modifications occurring during reproduction and accumulating over many generations to produce new species. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon suggested that species could degenerate into different organisms, Erasmus Darwin proposed that all warm-blooded animals could have descended from a single microorganism; the first full-fledged evolutionary scheme was Jean-Baptiste Lamarck's "transmutation" theory of 1809, which envisaged spontaneous generation continually producing simple forms of life that developed greater complexity in parallel lineages with an inherent progressive tendency, postulated that on a local level, these lineages adapted to the environment by inheriting changes caused by their use or disuse in parents.
These ideas were cond
The creation–evolution controversy involves an ongoing, recurring cultural and theological dispute about the origins of the Earth, of humanity, of other life. Creationism was once believed to be true, but since the mid-19th century evolution by natural selection has been established as an empirical scientific fact; the debate is religious, not scientific: in the scientific community, evolution is accepted as fact and efforts to sustain the traditional view are universally regarded as pseudoscience. While the controversy has a long history, today it has retreated to be over what constitutes good science education, with the politics of creationism focusing on the teaching of creationism in public education. Among majority-Christian countries, the debate is most prominent in the United States, where it may be portrayed as part of a culture war. Parallel controversies exist in some other religious communities, such as the more fundamentalist branches of Judaism and Islam. In Europe and elsewhere, creationism is less widespread, there is much less pressure to teach it as fact.
Christian fundamentalists repudiate the evidence of common descent of humans and other animals as demonstrated in modern paleontology, genetics and cladistics and those other sub-disciplines which are based upon the conclusions of modern evolutionary biology, geology and other related fields. They argue for the Abrahamic accounts of creation, and, in order to attempt to gain a place alongside evolutionary biology in the science classroom, have developed a rhetorical framework of "creation science". In the landmark Kitzmiller v. Dover, the purported basis of scientific creationism was exposed as a wholly religious construct without formal scientific merit; the Catholic Church now recognizes the existence of evolution. Pope Francis has stated: "God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life... Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve." The rules of genetic evolutionary inheritance were first discovered by a Catholic priest, the Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel, known today as the founder of modern genetics.
According to a 2014 Gallup survey, "More than four in 10 Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades. Half of Americans believe humans evolved, with the majority of these saying God guided the evolutionary process. However, the percentage who say God was not involved is rising." A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found "that while 37% of those older than 65 thought that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, only 21% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 agreed."The debate is sometimes portrayed as being between science and religion, the United States National Academy of Sciences states: Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth's history. Many have issued statements observing that the tenets of their faiths are compatible. Scientists and theologians have written eloquently about their awe and wonder at the history of the universe and of life on this planet, explaining that they see no conflict between their faith in God and the evidence for evolution.
Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in literal interpretations of religious texts. The creation–evolution controversy began in Europe and North America in the late 18th century, when new interpretations of geological evidence led to various theories of an ancient Earth, findings of extinctions demonstrated in the fossil geological sequence prompted early ideas of evolution, notably Lamarckism. In England these ideas of continuing change were at first seen as a threat to the existing "fixed" social order, both church and state sought to repress them. Conditions eased, in 1844 Robert Chambers's controversial Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation popularized the idea of gradual transmutation of species; the scientific establishment at first dismissed it scornfully and the Church of England reacted with fury, but many Unitarians and Baptists—groups opposed to the privileges of the established church—favoured its ideas of God acting through such natural laws.
By the end of the 19th century, there was no serious scientific opposition to the basic evolutionary tenets of descent with modification and the common ancestry of all forms of life. The publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species in 1859 brought scientific credibility to evolution, made it a respectable field of study. Despite the intense interest in the religious implications of Darwin's book, theological controversy over higher criticism set out in Essays and Reviews diverted the Church of England's attention; some of the liberal Christian authors of that work expressed support for Darwin, as did many Nonconformists. The Reverend Charles Kingsley, for instance supported the idea of God working through evolution. Other Christians opposed the idea, some of Darwin's close friends and supporters—including Charles Lyell and Asa Gray—initially expressed reservations about some of his ideas. Gray became a staunch supporter of Darwin in America, collected together a number of his own writings to produce an influential book, Darwiniana.
These essays argued for a conciliation between Darwinian evolution and the tene
History of evolutionary thought
Evolutionary thought, the conception that species change over time, has roots in antiquity – in the ideas of the ancient Greeks and Chinese as well as in medieval Islamic science. With the beginnings of modern biological taxonomy in the late 17th century, two opposed ideas influenced Western biological thinking: essentialism, the belief that every species has essential characteristics that are unalterable, a concept which had developed from medieval Aristotelian metaphysics, that fit well with natural theology. Naturalists began to focus on the variability of species. In the early 19th century Jean-Baptiste Lamarck proposed his theory of the transmutation of species, the first formed theory of evolution. In 1858 Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace published a new evolutionary theory, explained in detail in Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Unlike Lamarck, Darwin proposed common descent and a branching tree of life, meaning that two different species could share a common ancestor. Darwin based his theory on the idea of natural selection: it synthesized a broad range of evidence from animal husbandry, geology and embryology.
Debate over Darwin's work led to the rapid acceptance of the general concept of evolution, but the specific mechanism he proposed, natural selection, was not accepted until it was revived by developments in biology that occurred during the 1920s through the 1940s. Before that time most biologists regarded other factors as responsible for evolution. Alternatives to natural selection suggested during "the eclipse of Darwinism" included inheritance of acquired characteristics, an innate drive for change, sudden large mutations. Mendelian genetics, a series of 19th-century experiments with pea plant variations rediscovered in 1900, was integrated with natural selection by Ronald Fisher, J. B. S. Haldane, Sewall Wright during the 1910s to 1930s, resulted in the founding of the new discipline of population genetics. During the 1930s and 1940s population genetics became integrated with other biological fields, resulting in a applicable theory of evolution that encompassed much of biology—the modern synthesis.
Following the establishment of evolutionary biology, studies of mutation and genetic diversity in natural populations, combined with biogeography and systematics, led to sophisticated mathematical and causal models of evolution. Paleontology and comparative anatomy allowed more detailed reconstructions of the evolutionary history of life. After the rise of molecular genetics in the 1950s, the field of molecular evolution developed, based on protein sequences and immunological tests, incorporating RNA and DNA studies; the gene-centered view of evolution rose to prominence in the 1960s, followed by the neutral theory of molecular evolution, sparking debates over adaptationism, the unit of selection, the relative importance of genetic drift versus natural selection as causes of evolution. In the late 20th-century, DNA sequencing led to molecular phylogenetics and the reorganization of the tree of life into the three-domain system by Carl Woese. In addition, the newly recognized factors of symbiogenesis and horizontal gene transfer introduced yet more complexity into evolutionary theory.
Discoveries in evolutionary biology have made a significant impact not just within the traditional branches of biology, but in other academic disciplines and on society at large. Proposals that one type of animal humans, could descend from other types of animals, are known to go back to the first pre-Socratic Greek philosophers. Anaximander of Miletus proposed that the first animals lived in water, during a wet phase of the Earth's past, that the first land-dwelling ancestors of mankind must have been born in water, only spent part of their life on land, he argued that the first human of the form known today must have been the child of a different type of animal, because man needs prolonged nursing to live. In the late nineteenth century, Anaximander was hailed as the "first Darwinist", but this characterization is no longer agreed. Anaximander's hypothesis could be considered "evolution" in a sense. Empedocles, argued that what we call birth and death in animals are just the mingling and separations of elements which cause the countless "tribes of mortal things."
The first animals and plants were like disjointed parts of the ones we see today, some of which survived by joining in different combinations, intermixing during the development of the embryo, where "everything turned out as it would have if it were on purpose, there the creatures survived, being accidentally compounded in a suitable way." Other philosophers who became more influential at that time, including Plato and members of the Stoic school of philosophy, believed that the types of all things, not only living things, were fixed by divine design. Plato was called by biologist Ernst Mayr "the great antihero of evolutionism," because he promoted belief in essentialism, referred to as the theory of Forms; this theory holds that each natural type of object in the observed world is an imperfect manifestation of the ideal, form or "species" which defines that type. In his Timaeus for exam
Answers in Genesis
Answers in Genesis is a fundamentalist Christian apologetics parachurch organization. It advocates Young Earth creationism on the basis of its literal historical-grammatical interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Out of belief in biblical inerrancy, it rejects the results of those scientific investigations that contradict their view of the Genesis creation narrative and instead supports the pseudoscience of creation science; the organization sees evolution as incompatible with the Bible and believes anything other than the young Earth view is a compromise on the principle of biblical inerrancy. AiG began as the Creation Science Foundation in 1980, following the merger of two Australian creationist groups, its name changed to Answers in Genesis in 1994, when Ken Ham founded the organization's United States branch. In 2006, the branches in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa split from the US and UK to form Creation Ministries International. In 2007, AiG opened the Creation Museum, a facility that promotes young Earth creationism, in 2016 the organization opened the Ark Encounter, a Noah's Ark themed amusement park.
AiG publishes websites and journals. Answers in Genesis resulted from the merging of two Australian creationist organizations in 1980, one led by John Mackay and Ken Ham and the other by Carl Wieland; the organization become known as Answers in Genesis. Following turmoil in 2005, the AiG network split in 2006; the US and UK branches retained the AiG control of the AiG website under Ham's leadership. The Australian, New Zealand, South African branches rebranded themselves as Creation Ministries International. In 2007, CMI filed suit against AiG-USA alleging a variety of wrongdoings, including publicly defaming their organization. In June 2006, Answers in Genesis launched the Answers magazine in the United States and United Kingdom, followed by the Answers Research Journal in 2008, criticized in the media and scientific circles. In 2006, the National Religious Broadcasters awarded Answers in Genesis their Best Ministry Website award. In May 2007, AiG launched the Creation Museum in the United States.
The museum received criticism from the National Center for Science Education and petitions of protest from the scientific community. From the outset, Ken Ham did not share the interest of other creation science groups in aiming to produce science supporting young Earth creationism, although Answers in Genesis still maintain that "creation science is real science". Instead, Answers in Genesis is focused on presenting evangelicalism as an all-out battle of their biblical worldview against a naturalistic scientific worldview. Ham's message has had three central points: that teaching of evolution is an evil causing damage to society. Answers in Genesis promotes central young Earth creationist doctrines, including literal Creation of the Earth in six 24-hour days and effects of the global flood, but their main focus is acceptance of the authority of their particular literal reading of the Bible as a precondition for eternity in heaven, they present this as the choice of one's personal ultimate authority for truth, with God's Word and human reason being the two possible options, those choosing the latter over the former liable to perishment..
They hence introduce the concept of "biblical reasoning", where one is "never to attempt to reason in opposition to the Word of God", thus claim that this biblical reasoning and biblical faith "work well together". Answers in Genesis rejects key scientific facts and theories as established by archeology, geology and evolutionary biology and argues that the universe, the Earth and life originated about 6,000 years ago. Since their beliefs reject natural causes and events in scientific explanations of nature and the origin of the universe in favor of the supernatural, creation science was ruled to be a religion by the Supreme Court of the United States. A book published by one of AiG's employees in 2006 accused Hollywood of using subtle tactics to slip "evolutionary content" into SpongeBob SquarePants, Lilo & Stitch and Finding Nemo, affirming that "As Christians we need to reflect the Bible's standards and not Hollywood's perverted version of reality." AiG's Creation Museum is a museum displaying a Young Earth creationist worldview and pseudoarchaeology.
The facility has received much criticism from the scientific and religious communities, as well as cultural commentators. The Creation Museum opened May 27, 2007, at a cost of $27 million raised by private donations; the displays were created by Patrick Marsh, known for work on Universal Studios Florida attractions for King Kong and Jaws. A. A. Gill, a British writer and critic, described the museum as "battling science and reason since 2007", writing: "This place doesn't just take on evolution—it squares off with geology, paleontology, chemistry, zoology and good taste, it directly and boldly contradicts most -onomies and all -ologies, including most theology."In 2012, it was reported that the "public fascination" with the Creation Museum was "fading". In November 2012, the AiG reported that attendance for the year ended June 30 came to 254,074, a 10 percent drop from the previous year and is the attraction's "fourth straight year of declining attendance and its lowest annual attendance yet."
By mid-2015, 2.4 million people had visited the museum. Answers in Genesis opened the Ark Encounter
Objections to evolution
Objections to evolution have been raised since evolutionary ideas came to prominence in the 19th century. When Charles Darwin published his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, his theory of evolution met opposition from scientists with different theories, but came to receive overwhelming acceptance in the scientific community; the observation of evolutionary processes occurring has been uncontroversial among mainstream biologists since the 1940s. Since most criticisms and denials of evolution have come from religious groups, rather than from the scientific community. Although many religious groups have found reconciliation of their beliefs with evolution, such as through theistic evolution, other religious groups continue to reject evolutionary explanations in favor of creationism, the belief that the universe and life were created by supernatural forces; the U. S.-centered creation–evolution controversy has become a focal point of perceived conflict between religion and science. Several branches of creationism, including creation science, neo-creationism, intelligent design, argue that the idea of life being directly designed by a god or intelligence is at least as scientific as evolutionary theory, should therefore be taught in public education.
Such arguments against evolution have become widespread and include objections to evolution's evidence, plausibility and scientific acceptance. The scientific community does not recognize such objections as valid, pointing to detractors' misinterpretations of such things as the scientific method and basic physical laws. Evolutionary ideas came to prominence in the early 19th century with the theory of the transmutation of species put forward by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Evolution was at first opposed among the scientific community, notably by Georges Cuvier; the idea that laws control nature and society gained vast popular audiences with George Combe's The Constitution of Man of 1828 and the anonymous Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation of 1844. When Charles Darwin published his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, he convinced most of the scientific community that new species arise through descent through modification in a branching pattern of divergence from common ancestors, but while most scientists accepted that natural selection is a valid and empirically testable hypothesis, Darwin's view that it is the primary mechanism of evolution was rejected by some.
Darwin's contemporaries came to accept the transmutation of species based upon fossil evidence, the X Club was formed to defend evolution against the church and wealthy amateurs. At that time the specific evolutionary mechanism which Darwin provided of natural selection was disputed by scientists in favour of alternative theories such as Lamarckism and orthogenesis. Darwin's gradualistic account was opposed by saltationism and catastrophism. Lord Kelvin led scientific opposition to gradualism on the basis of his thermodynamic calculations that the Earth was between 24 and 400 million years old, his views favoured a version of theistic evolution accelerated by divine guidance; this age of the earth was disputed by geological estimates, which gained strength in 1907 when radioactive dating of rocks showed that the Earth was billions of years old. The specific hereditary mechanism Darwin hypothesized of pangenesis that supported gradualism lacked any supporting evidence and was disputed by the empirical tests of Francis Galton.
Although evolution was unchallenged, uncertainties about the mechanism in the eclipse of Darwinism persisted from the 1880s until the 1930s' inclusion of Mendelian inheritance and the rise of the modern evolutionary synthesis. The modern synthesis rose to universal acceptance among biologists with the help of new evidence, such as genetics, which confirmed Darwin's predictions and refuted the competing theories. Protestantism in America, broke out in "acrid polemics" and argument about evolution from 1860 to the 1870s—with the turning point marked by the death of Louis Agassiz in 1873—and by 1880 a form of "Christian evolution" was becoming the consensus. In Britain, while publication of The Descent of Man by Darwin in 1871 reinvigorated debate from the previous decade, Sir Henry Chadwick notes a steady acceptance of evolution "among more educated Christians" between 1860 and 1885; as a result, evolutionary theory was "both permissible and respectable" by 1876. Frederick Temple's lectures on The Relations between Religion and Science on how evolution was not "antagonistic" to religion highlighted this trend.
Temple's appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1896 demonstrated the broad acceptance of evolution within the church hierarchy. For decades the Roman Catholic Church avoided official refutation of evolution. However, it would rein in Catholics who proposed that evolution could be reconciled with the Bible, as this conflicted with the First Vatican Council's finding that everything was created out of nothing by God, to deny that finding could lead to excommunication. In 1950, the encyclical Humani generis of Pope Pius XII first mentioned evolution directly and officially, it allowed one to enquire into the concept of humans coming from pre-existing living matter, but not to question Adam and Eve or the creation of the soul. In 1996, Pope John Paul II said that evolution is "more than a hypothesis" and acknowledged the large body of work accumulated in its support, but reiterated that any attempt to give a material explanation of the human soul is "incompatible with the truth about man."
Pope Benedict XVI
Jewish views on evolution
Jewish views on evolution includes a continuum of views about the theory of evolution, experimental evolution, the origin of life, age of the universe, evolutionary creationism, theistic evolution. Today, many Jews accept the theory of evolution and do not see it as incompatible with traditional Judaism, reflecting the emphasis of prominent rabbis such as the Vilna Gaon and Maimonides on the ethical rather than factual significance of scripture. Many rabbis believe; this view is based on a chronology developed in a midrash, Seder Olam, based on a literal reading of the Book of Genesis. It is attributed to the Tanna Yose ben Halafta, covers history from the creation of the universe to the construction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Since there is no explicit discussion in the classical era, it is presumed that they took Genesis 1 making the beginning of the world six days earlier, but this is presumption in the absence of data; some modern rabbis believe. They believe. Rabbis who have this view base their conclusions in the midrash.
For example: The Midrash says: God created many worlds but was not satisfied, left the world he was satisfied with. Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman writes: In the first day God created the energy "matter" of all things, he was finished with the main creation. After that God created all other things from that energy; some midrashim state that the "first week" of Creation lasted for long periods of time. See Anafim on Rabbenu Bachya's Sefer Ikkarim 2:18. In his commentary on the Torah, Rabbi Bahya ben Asher concludes that there were many time systems occurring in the universe long before the spans of history that man is familiar with. Based on the Kabbalah he calculates; some medieval philosophical rationalists, such as Maimonides and Gersonides held that not every statement in Genesis is meant literally. In this view, one was obligated to understand Torah in a way, compatible with the findings of science. Indeed, one of the great Rabbis of the Middle Ages, wrote that if science and Torah were misaligned, it was either because science was not understood or the Torah was misinterpreted.
Maimonides argued that if science proved a point that did not contradict any fundamentals of faith the finding should be accepted and scripture should be interpreted accordingly. For example, in discussing Plato's view that the universe has existed forever, he argued that there was no convincing rational proof one way or the other, so that he was free to accept, therefore did accept, the literal Biblical view that the universe came into being at a definite time. With regard to Genesis, Maimonides stated that "the account given in scripture is not, as is believed, intended to be in all its parts literal." In the same paragraph, he states that this applies to the text from the beginning to the account of the sixth day of creation. Nahmanides critical of the rationalist views of Maimonides, pointed out several non-sequiturs stemming from a literal translation of the Bible's account of Creation, stated that the account symbolically refers to spiritual concepts, he quoted the Mishnah in Tractate Hagigah which states that the actual meaning of the Creation account, mystical in nature, was traditionally transmitted from teachers to advanced scholars in a private setting.
Many classic Kabbalistic sources mention Shmitot - cosmic cycles of creation, similar to the Indian concept of yugas. Nahmanides' disciple, Rabbi Isaac of Akko, a prominent Kabbalist of 13th-century, held that the Universe is about 15 billion years old. According to the tradition of Shmitot, Genesis talks only about the current epoch, while the information about the previous cosmic cycles is hidden in the esoteric reading of the text. A literal interpretation of the biblical Creation story among classic rabbinic commentators is uncommon, thus Bible commentator Abraham Ibn Ezra wrote, If there appears something in the Torah which contradicts reason…then here one should seek for the solution in a figurative interpretation…the narrative of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for instance, can only be understood in a figurative sense. One of several notable exceptions may be the Tosafist commentary on Tractate Rosh Hashanah, where there seems to be an allusion to the age of creation according to a literal reading of Genesis.
The non-literal approach is accepted by many as a possible approach within Modern Orthodox Judaism and some segments of Haredi Judaism. Rashi, while his commentary on the verses describing the days of creation teaches them as literal days, brackets his discussion of Genesis ch. 1 with comments stating that the entire world was created at once, with no duration of existence before Adam being specified. In the 13th century, Rabbi Isaac ben Samuel of Acre made the insight that, since Sabbatical cycles existed before man was created, time before Adam and Eve must be measured in divine years, not human years. Psalm 90:4 says, "For a thousand years in thy sight are but like yesterday when it is past, like a watch in the night." Rabbi Isaac of Akko - who held like Livnat Ha-Sapir, that we are in the seventh Sabbatical cycle - therefore took the above figure of 42,000 years and multiplied it by 365,250 to get 1